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202                                                                                                            B- POLEVOI
uWhere is he? What has become of him? He went
away so suddenly. I went out of the room when the alert
was sounded. I am in a first-aid unit, you know. When I
came back he was gone, and he left no note or
address___Alyosha dear ... excuse me for calling you
that___I know you too-----I am very worried about
him. I'd like to know where he is, and why he left so
Alexei felt a warm feeling surge through his heart.
He was glad for his friend's sake. The funny chap had
been mistaken, too sensitive. So genuine girls are not
scared by a soldier's disablement. And that meant that
he too could count on somebody being worried about him
and seeking him in the same way. These thoughts flashed
through his mind like lightning as he shouted into the
receiver, almost spluttering in his excitement:
"Anyuta! Everything's all right! It was a regrettable
misunderstanding. He is quite well and on active service
again. Of course! F.P.O. 42531-B. He is growing a beard!
Honestly, Anyuta! A fine beard, like ... er ... like ...
er, like the partisans wear! It becomes him!"
Anyuta did not approve of the beard. She thought
it was superfluous. Still more delighted to hear this,
Meresyev answered that since that was the case, Grisha
would have the beard off in a jiffy, although everybody
thought that the beard greatly improved his looks.
In the end, they both hung their receivers up as fast
friends, arranging that Meresyev would telephone her
before he left the hospital. On his way back to the ward
Alexei remembered that he had run to the telephone. He
tried to run again, but nothing came of it. The sharp
impact of the artificial feet caused acute pain to shoot
through his whole body. But never mind! If he couldn't
run today he would tomorrow, and if not tomorrow,
then the day after, but hell, he would run! Everything
would be all right. He certainly would be able to run
and fly, and fight, and being fond of pledges, he pledged
himself, after his first air battle, after he had brought
down his first German, to write and tell Olya everything,
come what may!